The first time it was suggested the Earth revolves around the sun… The first time it was suggested the Earth is round… The first-time gravity was discussed as an invisible force holding our universe together… The first-time evolution was proposed as a great explanation for life on Earth… The first time it was made known that man is a cause of global climate change… Altogether, ideas bucking the norm. All ideas, punching bags in the war against intellectualism.
As a child, I grew up revering scientists. My parents watched scientists of all sorts successfully land men on the moon and safely return them home. Scientists created the polio vaccine. Scientists gave us the personal computer and the internet. During my childhood, the news dedicated itself to celebrating the achievements of men and women dedicated to moving human history forward. In my first-grade classroom, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would proudly proclaim, “SCIENTIST!” This soon morphed into marine biologist and then a meteorologist (I had a lot of varied interests as a kid). I wanted to be like the people society seemed to place on a pedestal. We put them in the rightful place, not because of their infallibility. We put them there because they dreamed of tomorrow and made it happen.
Then something changed. Intelligence became something to belittle. Scientific fact became something to ignore. As more and more scientists tried to sway the public’s response to oncoming disasters like global climate change, political and economic interests began dividing us. Those we used to hold in esteem were being sectioned off as ammunition in a war against intellectualism. Special interests bent science to their will. Energy companies hired their own “experts” to conduct research contrary to the overwhelming beliefs of the scientific community. Mimicking the earliest efforts of the tobacco industry, they sought to discredit what everyone already knew to be true. They set out to divide, delay, and instill apathy. Sadly, it worked. Around half of Americans don’t believe man is responsible for global climate change. Even fewer Americans (one of the world’s premier research and economic engines) believe we should do anything about it. Climate change became a wedge issue and the scientific community will never be the same again.
Throughout human history, we’ve shown ourselves to be afraid of what we don’t know. When we should be embracing and attempting to conquer the unknown, we find ourselves holding tight to opinions over fact. Instead of trying to fill gaps with faith, we should believe in the scientific method. The scientific method is a constant. It doesn’t bend to the will of man, politicians, or special interests. It is only concerned with the facts.
I don’t know if we will ever return to a point in time where science is held in the regard it deserves. I hope so, but I don’t know. Our country has become so divided that I fear there may never be a way back. I do know this though, science will continue. It will continue to make discoveries and solve problems that once seemed impossible. Ordinary men and women sitting in labs or out in the field will write the next chapter of human history. Some of these findings will be controversial. Some will shake the foundations of everything we thought to be true. Those findings will be scrutinized, studied, replicated, and reviewed. At the end of the day, the scientific method will win the day. It is up to us to decide whether we want to listen or not.
Be good to each other,
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